Monday, January 5, 2015

What happened in my world in 2014


Apologies for the long silence (and for not visiting all your blogs) but my father's illness took up a lot of my time toward the end of 2014.

My facebook friends already know this, but my father passed away on December 11, 2014, exactly two weeks before Christmas. Those two weeks are mostly a blur at this point, but we did manage to celebrate Christmas, although of course the tears flowed freely.

Looking through my myriad photo albums, I realized I have many wonderful pictures of my father to help me remember him. This one is from my wedding, nearly 30 years ago.



June 22, 1985




One of my favorite memories of Dad is when he read to me or told me stories. He was terrific at all the voices. Years later, he continued the tradition by reading to my sons. So you can see that books have always been an important part of our family.


This is Dad reading to his grandson in 1988


For a book blogger, of course, the end of the year means looking back to see how many books I read. What about you? Did you reach your reading goals? Do you have any favorite books from 2014?

In 2014, I read 108 books, eleven fewer than the year before, but five more than in 2012. And although I do read adult books from time to time (I read Joan Didion's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, and cried through the entire book), mostly what I read is MG. Here are a few MG titles that gave me comfort these last few weeks (and which I highly recommend). Source for all was my local library and all synopses are from Indiebound.




What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren (Putnam, February 2014)

Synopsis: Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can't keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther's family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but Esther makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?


My take: You may remember that I adore books about the Great Depression and this is no exception. A lovely story. Simply lovely.





The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer (Putnam, May 2014)

Synopsis: After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

My take: Since I read this the week after my father died, I found it extremely comforting. But I also loved Grace. She seemed so flawed and vulnerable and real and she really grew as a character.







Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books, August 2014)

Synopsis: A rambling old smuggler's inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books.  

My take: The synopsis doesn't begin to do justice to this entertaining, many-layered, deftly-woven tale that takes place just before Christmas (I read it just before and after Christmas so it was perfect!). Milo is an orphan, raised by loving adoptive parents who just happen to run a smuggler's inn. I totally guessed the "secret" of this book less than halfway through, but highly doubt an 11-year-old would. I also think it would make a terrific graphic novel.



Next week: A giveaway and guest post from author Dianne K. Salerni, whose book, The Inquisitor's Mark (a sequel to The Eighth Day) comes out on January 27, 2015.   



20 comments:

  1. I too lost my dad a few years ago right before the holidays. Sorry about your loss. The memories will keep you going.
    Thanks for your list of favorites. I have wanted to read each of these for some time and your review was a helpful nudge to do so. Have a happy and healthy 2015.

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    1. Thanks, Greg. You certainly understand what it's been like, then. I'm sorry for your loss too. Hope you get a chance to read at least one of these delightful books.

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  2. Hi Joanne! I'm so sorry for your loss, which would be hard at any time of the year. The picture of him with your son is precious... my love of books and photographs is about equal, and this photo is a gem.

    On the reading front I have done OK this year. I don't set goals, but the list on my blog says I read 31 middle grade, 17 young adult, and 10 adult books this year. I also read parts of a couple self help books. I have not been blogging the second half of the year either, just been lazy.

    Happy New Year to you my friend.

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    1. Julie! You're back! I've missed your blog posts and hope you'll get back into it. Your reading list sounds great.

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  3. Glad you took the time you needed away from blogging. I had to this year as well. I love the wedding picture of you and your dad.

    Since Rudy died, I've found I'm just not reading as much as usual. I'm accepting that right now I need the escape of TV series and movies more right now, though I'm still reading.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie and I totally understand. You've had a much harder year than I have. Sometimes a movie is the best escape.

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  4. I'm so sorry about your dad, Joanne. But what a beautiful picture of you and him at your wedding and with your son! I lost my mother-in-law in November. It's really hard when it happens around the holidays.
    I loved Secret Hum and the other two are books on my TBR list. I'm definitely going to have to get around those now. :)

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    1. So sorry to hear about your mother-in-law, Jenni. We both lost someone near a holiday.

      And I remember how highly you recommended Secret Hum. What a gem of a book!

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  5. I'm sorry to hear about your dad. It's so hard to go through Christmas after a loss like that. You and your family will be in my prayers.
    I loved Greenglass House, too--though it certainly defies synopses!

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  6. So sorry to hear about your dad. I'm glad you have good memories to hold onto.

    I find I read more MG than anything else, too. In fact, I often get impatient with adult fiction because it seems so wordy and meandering compared to MG. I'm just at the beginning of Greenglass House and so glad I've finally gotten a chance to read it.

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    1. Thanks, Andrea. I feel the same way about adult novels. I looked back at my 2014 list (inspired by Julie DeGuia, above) and I read 28 YA novels, 12 adult books (including memoirs) and 68 MG novels. Hope you like Greenglass House.

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  7. I'm so sorry for your loss. The photos of your dad are lovely. Thanks for sharing them. I'm adding a couple of these books to my TBR list. I did love The Secret Hum of a Daisy.

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    1. Thanks, Rosi. Glad to hear you loved The Secret Hum of a Daisy.

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  8. A sad loss indeed Joanne. I am so happy that "What the Moon Said" brought you comfort and that you found it to be such a lovely, lovely read. I think it is just perfectly written for Middle Grade readers, ages 8 to 12 (perfect in its word usage, structure and tone), but is a wonderful read for sensitive and caring adults as well. And Ms. Rosengren is as beautiful a human being as she is a writer....Everyone who knows her well will tell you that. Can fully understand how that book could be a comfort to you at a time when comfort is difficult to find....The same can be said for Tracy Holczer's book.

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    1. Thanks, quizzler. It sounds as if you know Gayle Rosengren personally?? Lucky you.

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  9. Great review. I'm sorry about your dad. It seems like he was a great guy.

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  10. I am so sorry about your dad's passing. I know how difficult the holidays must have been for your family. How wonderful that you spent some time looking through the memories you have of him. He sounds like a great guy and his passion for reading definitely lives in you.

    I haven't read the three MG books you mentioned- but I will definitely have to check them out. Awesome job reading so many books last year. I hope you have a happy and healthy 2015.
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks, Jess. I am grateful I have so many pictures to remember him by.

      And I hope you have a wonderful 2015 too.

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